By  on January 31, 2008

The domestic value of counterfeit goods seized when passing through U.S. ports increased 27 percent last year, to $200 million.

Footwear and "wearing apparel" were the top two commodities confiscated, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, both part of the Department of Homeland Security.

Footwear accounted for 40 percent of goods seized, with a domestic value of $77.8 million. The category increased by 23 percent year-over-year. Wearing apparel made up 14 percent of the total goods seized, and had a domestic value of $27 million — an 11 percent increase year-over-year.

Seizures of handbags-wallets-backpacks and watches and watch parts totaled $14.2 million and $13.4 million, respectively. Each accounted for about 7 percent of the total domestic value of seizures. Sunglasses seized were $4 million, or 2 percent of the total goods seized.

The domestic value of goods is determined by adding shipping costs, the manufacturing costs of goods in a foreign country, customs duties to enter the U. S. and insurance costs together. The figure is lower than the suggested retail prices of goods.

The total number of seizures last year declined 7 percent, but a Customs spokesman cautioned that the number is misleading. Each seizure is counted as one event, regardless of the size or scope, meaning a seizure of several containers and a seizure of one box of counterfeits are counted the same. There were a total of 13,600 seizures of infringing goods last year.

"These criminal organizations are not only stealing the trademarks of U.S. businesses, they are siphoning millions of dollars from the American economy and are often deceiving an unsuspecting public," Julie L. Myers, assistant secretary for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said in a statement.

"Where there is money to be made, counterfeiters and pirates will steal intellectual property and capitalize on the innovations of others without regard for the consequences to the people and to the businesses that they steal from or the consumers that are harmed by their fake products," W. Ralph Basham, commissioner, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said in a statement. "CBP is committed to stopping trade in pirated and counterfeit goods and is taking action to confront the growing global theft of intellectual property."U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement also said they donated 10,000 pairs of confiscated shoes to Samaritan's Feet, a nonprofit organization that provides shoes to impoverished people globally. The holders of the trademarks on the seized shoes agreed to allow the agencies to donate the goods instead of destroying them, which is the standard procedure.

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